How To Plan Your Ministry Year (Part 1)

If you’re in ministry, regardless of type, role, department, or size, you probably find yourself trying to figure out what things to attack each year – and in what order.  Your church may have a plan that is already in place for this sort of prioritizing and strategic thinking – or you may be on your own.  Either way, there’s a million different angles and great ideas out there about where to focus your ministry energy and when to focus it.  What’s below is just a few things that help me as I plan for a year.
PRAY BEFORE YOU PLAN – As I start to “plan” where our ministry to head, I have to start with Scripture, the unchanging mission of the church, and the leading of the Holy Spirit in light of where I particular ministry is at at the time.  Hopefully those are not in conflict with the church leadership above you – and you’ve got the freedom to pursue the Spirit’s leading in a biblical manner – AND still be in concert with the leadership authorities that God has put in place above you.  So, for me, it’s really important to slow down and “pray” before I “plan.”  It’s great to strategize and think well and plan carefully – but it must start with getting a sense of where the Lord is leading.  Once you’ve got that, then you can start to hone in on some specific measurable results you’d like to see in place by the year end.
PICK A TANGIBLE “WHAT”  – I think we all have some goal or picture in mind about what we’d like to see happen in our ministry (more students attending main church, children have a place to serve & give back, I want to lead my team better, etc.).  But I think the heart of the your annual measurable results are things that answer, “WHAT IS GOING TO ACCOMPLISH THAT GOAL.”  Let’s take getting more students attending main church as an example.  That’s a great goal!  A helpful, measurable result for it might look something like “CREATE VIDEO AD CAMPAIGNS FOR BENEFITS OF ATTENDING MAIN CHURCH.”  That’s a pretty tangible “what.”  Then you can unpack the “HOW” you’re going to create those ads, how frequent they will need to run, where you will show them, etc. as part of your how-to plan to accomplish the “what.”
USE ACTIVE WORDS FOR MEASURABLE RESULTS  – Active words like “launch,” “build,” “create,” or “implement” help hone in on a specific action item.  Words like “evaluate” or “think through” are less specific and harder to measure.  The more active the word, the more I think you know you’re on the right track to it being a solid, measureable result.
THINK ABOUT WHAT WILL SINK YOUR SHIP –I usually start there when figuring out how to prioritize my annual list of measurables; my first, gut-level impulse for where my ministry is at – and what will train-wreck it if I don’t take some ground (new or existing) by the year’s end.
THINK ABOUT THE TIME FACTOR – I think through so many things I need to tackle in the course of a year in my ministry.  Some of them are HUGE, but will only take a week to implement!  Some of them are HUGE, but will take all year.  Sometimes it helps to create a subset list of desired results that are quick to fix, but crucial that they actually happen.  Starting a weekly communication email to parents or leaders only takes moments to start doing, but makes all the difference in the world.  But does that necessitate it being an annual focus or measurable?  Maybe not.
CREATE A ‘BELOW THE LINE’ SET OF MEASURABLES – It can be helpful to identify your top 2 or 3 measurable results, but still leave some identified as ones that fall ‘below the line.’  Maybe you surprise yourself and are able to crank out your top 2 faster than you planned!  Amen!  Or maybe the Spirit changes directions in the ministry and number 4 suddenly seems more pressing than number 3.  I think we’ve got that freedom – and that responsibility to keep the other things on the radar.
CONSIDER ‘NEW GROUND’ AND ‘EXISTING’ MINISTRY – I think careful, prayerful thought will give you a sense of what needs to be a brand new launch and what needs to be strengthened in your existing ministry.  Then, you’ll be able to prioritize which of those things are more crucial to both survival, health, and growth in the next year.
CONSIDER THE MAJOR FOCAL POINTS FOR THE GREATER CHURCH BODY (IF YOUR CHURCH HAS SOME) – Especially if you’re a part of one of the support ministries of the church, it’s important not to silo off into your own planet.  If your ministry can partner with some focus areas of the broader church, do it!  It’s really helpful and satisfying for us to consider what areas we’re involved in and how they can directly impact our overall church mission or focus areas.  It may even sway a difficult to prioritize measurable result into your top 3 or so.